Surging Dodgers go for four-game sweep of Diamondbacks

MLB Baseball

While the Los Angeles Dodgers changed their pitching plan for Thursday’s series finale at home, the Arizona Diamondbacks have finally made a rotation decision that was not last-minute in nature.

Instead of using right-hander Trevor Bauer on Thursday against the Diamondbacks as previously scheduled, the Dodgers will go with a bullpen day for the second time in five games. The plan was not quite good enough on Sunday in a 3-2 loss to the Miami Marlins.

Bauer instead will pitch Friday in a series opener on the road against the San Francisco Giants, who have the best record in baseball.

After waiting until pregame to reveal their starter in each of the past two games, the Diamondbacks announced that right-hander Merrill Kelly (2-4, 5.24 ERA) will start Thursday. Kelly started on May 13 against the Miami Marlins, giving up three runs on seven hits over 6 1/3 innings in an eventual 5-1 defeat.

Kelly will try to help the Diamondbacks avoid the sweep after the Dodgers rallied for a 4-2 victory Wednesday with three runs in the seventh inning. Arizona’s only runs came on a two-run home run from Eduardo Escobar.

The Dodgers needed three innings from their relievers Wednesday in advance of a bullpen game. Joe Kelly, Victor Gonzalez and Kenley Jansen each pitched an inning after Clayton Kershaw allowed two runs on two hits with eight strikeouts over the first six innings.

The Dodgers lost both of their bullpen games this season, falling 3-1 on April 30 at Milwaukee and again Sunday. Right-hander Edwin Uceta (two innings) started the April 30 game, while Jimmy Nelson (1 2/3 innings) started Sunday.

Roberts declined to name his bullpen starter for Thursday, with both Uceta and Nelson a possibility.

The Dodgers also could turn to veteran David Price for a short start after the left-hander returned from the injured list Monday because of a hamstring issue. He pitched an inning Tuesday but has not started a game since Sept. 1, 2019, as a member of the Boston Red Sox.

Yet it is not the pitching that has been an issue in the Dodgers’ bullpen games. During a 5-15 stretch that ended last week, the team struggled to produce runs. They have been better at it during this homestand and have won seven of eight games.

The Dodgers’ Max Muncy was off to a slow start, in line with the team’s issues, but is heating up with 11 hits in the past seven games.

“We’re making some adjustments,” Muncy said. “I think it’s just those adjustments taking shape finally. It’s taken longer than I would have liked, and there’s still a long way to go with it.”

Merrill Kelly figures to run with something similar to the game plan Matt Peacock used when he gave up one run over 5 1/3 innings on Wednesday in a spot start. A week’s worth of rest for Kelly won’t hurt.

“Organizationally, with the amount of injuries that we’ve been walking through, we just felt like giving Merrill the extra days … wouldn’t be the worst idea,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said.

Since giving up six runs in back-to-back starts earlier this season, Kelly has a 3.45 ERA over his past five outings as he returns from thoracic outlet surgery last year.

Kelly has three career starts against Los Angeles, going 0-1 with a 5.06 ERA. The loss came in his lone start against the Dodgers last season when he gave up three runs on nine hits over six innings.

–Field Level Media

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